Friends Antonio Sanchez, a sophomore philosophy major, and Mariah Nadler, a sophomore creative writing major, walked into the dance studio nervous, but excited to learn some new moves. They’ve been talking about learning ballroom dance, but never found a good opportunity until Feb. 13 at the Valentine’s Day ballroom dance lessons event.
Other friends, couples and strangers gathered together to learn three ballroom dances: the salsa, tango and swing.
“Salsa means spicy!” shouted Darcy Starr, the night’s instructor, to the participants.
Starr showed the pairs how to perform a dip. Girls had to straddle their partner’s left leg as the male held the girls shoulders, carried her into the dip and brought her back to his right, her hair flipping as she was brought up again.
“The dip really isn’t wild,” said Starr of StarrDance, Inc. and Webster University alumnus. “It’s controlled.”
After the dip, Starr instructed the women to shimmy their shoulders.
“Guys can shimmy too,” she pointed out. Then several male dance students proceeded to shimmy.
The event acted as a fundraiser for the Dance Club. The organization is trying to raise $8,000, and according to Jehmela Wilson, a junior dance major and Dance Club’s treasurer, the dancers have $2,000 left to raise.
In April they will make their way to Wichita, Kansas for the American College Dance Festival. Thirty-five of the 36 members of Dance Club are making the trip.
The ballroom dance lessons and dodgeball tournament on Feb. 4 are two events the Dance Club has sponsored trying to reach students outside the dance department for support. “They’re working at it and having a good time,” Reed said. “Hopefully it involved more people around campus a little more.”
John Davis, a sophomore French major, danced with Angel Echols, a junior at Meramec Community College.
“I’m not really a dancer but it was cool,” Davis said. “It was creative.”
For the dance students, the event was a way for them to show others the fun they find in dancing. Wilson said she was able to relax while learning the ballroom dances because it was a different dance environment than what she’s accustomed to. She had little ballroom dance experience.
“If you didn’t have experience it wouldn’t have hindered you,” Wilson said. “This brings out the joy of dancing. Dance students always have joy when we dance, but this was different.”
Dance students sometimes danced with others with little dance experience. Starr said because the dancers learn best visually, she was able to show them the steps and the dancers could translate the moves to their partners.
“It was a challenge because I wanted to keep everyone engaged at their level,” Starr said.
Alicia Dowdle, a 1998 alumnus dance major, attended Webster with Starr and brought along her eight-year-old son, Michael Dowdle for the fun.
“I’m a Latin fan,” Alicia Dowdle said. “So, I’m a salsa freak.”
Faith Gouveia, mother of senior dance major Amanda Gouveia, tangoed with her husband John Gouveia. Amanda Gouveia’s grandmother, Donna Chesanek, also attended. The family came together not only to support the dancers’ cause, but also to expand their repertoire of dance.
“I see how Amanda’s dance foundation comes out in this,” Faith Gouveia said. “They’re offering something to the community that is needed and share a lot of what they’ve learned with others.”
Wilson said she hopes the event opened up non-dancers’ eyes.
“You don’t have to be a dance major to be in dance club,” Wilson said. “We don’t judge. We want you to come. We can all learn together.”